Defined by multiple dynamics of instability, the Lake Chad Basin represents a complex regional system. Over the last ten years, violent extremism has spread across the region as a result of Salafi-jihadi armed groups – Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad (JAS), commonly known as Boko Haram, and Islamic State in West African Province (ISWAP) – which gave impulse to regional security cooperation processes.
In the eyes of Western partners, the value of Chad’s political regime has decisively increased during the past decade, especially after France’s intervention in Mali in 2012. Having occupied the country’s highest position for nearly three decades, President Idriss Déby Itno is viewed by his international allies not only as a willing and reliable partner but also as an acute observer of the turbulent political landscape in the Sahel.
The Lake Chad region is caught in a conflict trap. Climate change and conflict dynamics create a feedback loop where climate impacts feed additional pressures while conflict undermines communities’ coping capacity. Whilst the region around the lake, bordering Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, is a priority for stabilisation efforts for many international and regional military actors, to date these efforts have failed to de-escalate the violence. Indeed, in some cases, military responses are making the situation worse.
2017 and 2018 had confirmed the pre-eminence of Boko Haram’s splinter faction known as the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), which broke away from Boko Haram’s historic leader Abubakar Shekau around mid-2016.
The Lake Chad Basin shows a complex regional system defined by multiple instabilities. Non-state Salafi-jihadi actors – namely Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) – confront state institutions and compete for power over local communities, fuelling regional political and economic insecurity. Furthermore, an increasingly harsh climate is having a serious impact on livelihood activities, feeding into social tensions – such as farmers-herders conflicts over access to natural resources – and prompting a severe humanitarian crisis.
Between 3 and 6 February this year French air force jets attacked a convoy of trucks carrying rebels in north-east Chad, who were advancing on the capital N’Djamena with the aim of overthrowing the regime of President Idriss Deby. Since the Nineties, France has repeatedly promised to reduce its interference in internal African politics without wider consultation, yet this was a unilateral French strike, ordered by Paris, that harked back to the days when France regularly intervened in the internal politics of its former colonies.